The United States Grand Prix highlights Formula One’s Netflix-fueled growth in America

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Formula One

Hundreds of thousands of fans packed into the Circuit of the Americas to watch the United States Grand Prix, signifying the sport’s growth in America.

Netflix is a beautiful thing.

The concept of being able to stream any show at any given time is one brilliant invention. Formula One must be thanking its lucky stars that Drive to Survive has been so popular on the streaming service, especially during quarantine. 

And the one country that gorged itself on Drive to Survive more than anyone else was the good ol’ US of A. Over 50 million people have watched the show according to McLaren CEO Zak Brown, and the show’s had a monumental impact in bringing in new, mostly American, fans to the sport, this article’s author included. 

It was an immediate smash, even without Mercedes and Ferrari (the title contenders in 2018) participating in season one. Quarantine left people looking for a show to watch, and Drive to Survive filled that void for many people. I watched all three seasons, which covers 2018-2020, with storylines varying from the Haas/Rich Energy sponsorship debacle in 2019 to Red Bull’s search for a consistent second driver following Daniel Ricciardo’s 2019 move to Renault, and found it to be incredibly riveting, as did many others. 

I think we all knew Drive to Survive would have an immense impact on the sport, but we didn’t really see that until the United States Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar in 2021 (it couldn’t be held in 2020 because COVID). With the sport’s explosion in popularity in the States, expectations were high.

400,000 people made the trip to the Circuit of the Americas throughout the race weekend with 140,000 on race day, making it the most attended race weekend in Formula One history and cementing the United States Grand Prix as a calendar keystone (it had been taken off the calendar in 2008 following declining attendance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, especially after a farcical race in 2005 where only 6 cars started the race in the midst of a tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone). Millions more tuned in on ABC to watch a thrilling race where Max Verstappen continued to increase his lead, now 12 points up on Lewis Hamilton with 5 races left in the season. 

 Verstappen was able to hold off a charging Hamilton at the very end, finishing just over a second ahead of his title rival, as Red Bull’s decision to pit Verstappen early for an aggressive two-stop worked wonders. Hamilton had beaten Verstappen off the line and was leading until he first pit; Verstappen would lead every other lap when he wasn’t in the pit or behind Hamilton on older tyres. 

Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, finished third, which may seem unremarkable until you realize that the drinking mechanism in his car stopped working around 20 laps in, leaving him dehydrated in the Texas heat. To hold on to third while not passing out from his lack of water is insane, and might show that Red Bull have finally found a dependent second driver after three years of a search.

The battle for fifth was also intriguing, as McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was able to defend from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who then wore his tyres out and lost out on sixth to Valtteri Bottas, who’d started 9th due to an engine change after qualifying fourth. 

Yuki Tsunoda’s horrid run of form ended with a strong showing to claim ninth (his first points since Hungary), while Kimi Raikkonen had impressed, fighting his way up to tenth until a spin on the last lap led to Sebastian Vettel, starting from 18th thanks due to a full engine change, claiming his first point since that joke of a race in Belgium. 

 Overall, it’s easy to judge the United States Grand Prix as a rousing success. It proved that Formula One is not only here now, but it’s here to stay and still growing. We haven’t seen it peak, and we probably won’t for a while.

 It delivered a thrilling race between title contenders to boot, as Verstappen and Hamilton fought for the lead until the bitter end; the midfield continued to thrill as well, whether it be Ricciardo and Sainz dueling for fifth throughout the race or Fernando Alonso’s battles with both the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi and the stewards. Formula One looks like it might finally stick in the United States after years of trying, and the 2021 United States Grand Prix showed what it can bring.